A Muslim Education

What goes on in an Islamic school? Who are the students and teachers? How do their curricula differ from other private and state schools? How much focus is there on religious instruction? Compass explores the stories of two Muslim schools to find out.

In brief, the curricula differs in that they get taught religion, and the school day begins with a prayer from the Koran. There is also the afternoon prayer session, the compulsory wearing of the hajib, separate playgrounds (and prayer rooms) for the boys and girls. Hmm, completely like a state school… NOT.

Whilst Islamic studies, which is compulsory, is only taught one to two hours per week (out of 30 hours) they get this for the full 13 years they are at school. Plus all those prayer sessions and teachers focusing learning with an Islamic twist or theme (whatever that is?), that sure adds up to a lot of religious indoctrination instruction.

This quote made me go WTF!

It’s very important for the students to express their muslim identity because that’s who they are part of. They can’t escape who they are, … (emphasis mine)

Why can’t they escape being a Muslim? As someone else said, it’s like the old saying "Once a Catholic, always a Catholic". People, you have your own mind, you don’t have to follow old dogmas and traditions just because you were unlucky enough to be born and indoctrinated into them.

The Malek Fahd school is named after the late King Fahd of Saudi Arabia.
20 years ago, land for the school was bought with a one-off grant from the Saudi royal family.

They no longer receive any money from Saudi Arabia, but

state and Federal money makes up around 70% of the school’s budget….and that helps keep fees low.

How very generous of us taxpayers to fund religious indoctrination.

The show seemed somewhat contrived to me, like they were trying to show how wonderfully integrated into the Australian community the Muslims really are. But, there were no hard questions as to why they don’t really integrate by going to a secular public school. The bottom line is, these schools just foster the "muslim identity" and leave little room for the children to gain awareness of other religions or even the idea that having no religion is OK.

John from the Secular Party of Australia expressed it nicely:

No justification as to why encouraging sectarian religious identity and division is necessary, justified or socially beneficial.

This coming Sunday (14 Sep 08) Compass shows "A Christian Education". I guess this will be more of the same, this time Catholics instead of Muslims.

As seen on Compass Sunday 7 Sep 08 (repeated on ABC 2, Friday 6pm). The transcript of A Muslim Education is available online.

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17 Comments

Filed under Compass, islam, Muslim, religion, religious school

17 responses to “A Muslim Education

  1. Be nice to have a program on why secular intituations and a secular state are vital to a thriving democracy. Imagine the screams from the religious right.

  2. John was interviewed? I shall have to try to catch the repeat on Friday.

  3. Michele

    Muslim schools are coming to our corner of Canada.

    A private Muslim school, the Misbah School of Saskatoon, is now an “associate school” within the Saskatoon Public School system and they will not receive tax money.

    http://becausenooneasked.wordpress.com/2008/06/19/public-tax-dollars-for-a-religious-school/

    So, tax dollars can support a religious education in the name of multiculturalism. Yuck.

  4. kink9570

    What is more interesting to me is that we examine more of the same but refuse to see what is driving the processes of criticism. The processes that labeling and then dismissing the persons wearing the labels are the same. Muslims, Christians, Atheists and the multitude of labels allow people to criticize a person without really knowing him. I have been a practicing Muslim for over 40 years and attended all types of schools, masque, churches and the likes. I have assisted in raising 10 children in this society and their educations were more along the lines of what the French employ in its meaning i.e. upbringing. This comprised with an understanding that we are all in this together and no matter the labels we will have to learn to deal fairly with each other.

    This Muslim, Christian, Buddhist philosophy of peace is the same therefore is taught my children to read the Holy books to include the Koran, Holy Bible, and Toa. This may not be the path of all Muslims, Christians or Buddhist. It was my path as a Sufi and believing Muslim. This training and education yield children who know their responsibilities to their creator, and the very social structure but it has not twisted their minds any more than the child who is taught little about responsibility. The Masque, Midrasahs, Temples, and Monasteries have the same position in all of the named societies. To use these institutions to imply that their teaching is a dangerous pursuit to human development is an unfortunate use. That becomes a secular argument show that it is just another criticism or those who does not understands the place for such human development and care only to dismiss the human importance inheritance in these pursuits.

    My philosophy has assisted in bring up individuals who are accomplished parents, engineers, teachers, administrators, and contributors to improving the lot of the human being. Most Muslims like me are expressing themselves in every aspect of employment. This is not different from the other practitioners of the various religions. Other Muslims practice as some Christians. That there may be more religious intent in daily practices of the Muslim society is clear for all to see. However, the human diversity which secularism boasts as its property exists as well though it be hidden from public view.

    Morris Peavey

  5. Hi.

    You misunderstood what was meant by “They can’t escape who they are”. It means they are Muslim no matter where they go; School being the place in focus. Their ‘Muslimness’ isn’t switched off when they enter School, or anywhere else!

    I think your wider point is about apostacy. Yes, many Muslims look very dimly on apostates, but like many things in Islam, there are a range of opinions on the matter. Copious quantities of literature have been written by Muslims on this topic. I bought a book a while back (I’ll post the info here later) of a respected Islamic scholar who concludes ‘standard’ apostacy doesn’t merit severe punishment. {I still haven’t read it yet, but I know it’s conclusion}. Apostacy which threatens the practice of Islam if the ‘national’ form of rule and law, is said (I think) to merit a death sentence if found guilty and all appeals have been exhausted etc.

    Let me enquire… The head of state of Australia is queen Elizabeth II, therefore technically, despite formal treaties to which Australia is bound, the laws – and the head of state is the supreme arbiter of law..yes? – then the charge of treason against state (ergo the Queen) could be met with the death penalty?

    It is also reported that in the 90’s, the govt. of ex-PM Howard decided that Australia could assist in foreign death penalty cases without a guarantee that no one would be executed. Australian investigators actively collected evidence they knew it would contribute towards the proclimation of the death Penalty for suspects in Indonesia. Seems hypocritical. But secular law is malleable – leglislation/treeaties on capital punishment could flip-flop at any stage.

    So from Australia’s pov, it’s not so clear cut.

    What’s your personal view on the death penalty, such as child paedophiles who murder kids, or the Bali bombers etc. What if someone tortured then murdered members of your family? Would you not wish reciprocation?

    It seems you really dislike religion (inc Islam), which is your choice, but your dislike of it makes you jump to rather hasty conclusions.

    It could be argued, that if religious instruction (or indoctination as you polarizedly call it), is 2 out of 30 hours (i.e. 7%) and if the state only contibutes 70% to the schoold budget then the state isn’t paying for the religious element of it. In fact, the school is subsidising the secular governments sllabus to the tune of 23%.

    Perhaps they should integrate into state school. I can imagine why Muslim partents may not be so happy about it becasue, rightly or wrongly, they feel the secular life will mean their kids are exposed to things which put them in conflict with Islam and hence they seek avoidance of that possibility.

    You claim to reject dogma, but seem to have accepted it as you give no reason why you agree with the Secular Part of Australia’s statement on integration.

    If by mixed education (Muslims with non-Muslims) your making a point that Muslims should integrate, then related to integration is tolerance and respect. If Muslims should integrate and show tolerance and respect for secular and atheist views, why cant atheists and religous secularists accept Muslim opinions with regards to their faith too?

    Please don’t underestimate the tolerance Muslims show for non-Muslim religious secular and atheistic practices conducted not just in Oz, but across the globe. There are reportedly over a billion Muslims world wide and the vast majority live in relative peace with their neighbours. People just want to get on in life and be happy with with their fellow man and surroundings.

    In these days of the War OF Terror, it is easy to pick up on some negative output about Muslims. I would hope you could see such basless propaganda for what it is and that really you have nothing to fear.

    I would reccommend you read about the history of what’s called the Islamic empire to discover how Pluralistic it was. It’s the kind of information your not usually invited to see in secular or areligios indoctination.

    May I recommend this Excellent 89min BBC documentary: An Islamic History of Europe.
    (& I rarely reccommend the BBC for anything!)

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5769254652856087055 short extract.

    Sincere Regards
    lwtc247 (a Muslim)

  6. @Michele.

    It would be interesting to hear your considered opinion on the many “International” schools in Muslim countries (as used by a lot of ex-pats, diplomats and so forth) some of which provide secular education. Do such schools cause you similar consternation and would you support them being closed down?

  7. Welcome to all the new readers.

    Michelle, if Canada has only one state sponsored Muslim school they are doing all right. Australia already has about 30, with plans for more.

    Our constitution has been deemed to say that the government can’t promote or establish one particular religion (ie. no one can say Australia is an Anglican country). However there is nothing to stop the government promoting any and all religions, which it currently does to the tune of millions, if not billions, of tax dollars. More on this in another post.

    kink9570 and lwtc247 nice to hear the point of view from a couple of Muslims.

    kink9570, I don’t deny, and never implied, that individuals no matter what their religious leanings can be well educated and useful members of society, and it sounds like you have done a reasonable job of assisting in that.
    I wonder how many other Muslims (or other religions) teach their children other religious points of view as you did? However, did you also teach your children that having no religion is also a valid option?

    lwtc247, I will respond to your well written comments as a new post, as you have covered a lot of ground which is difficult to fir into a comment reply.

  8. Pingback: Answers to a Muslim « Oz Atheist’s Weblog

  9. kink9570

    ozatheist wrote–
    kink9570, I don’t deny, and never implied, that individuals no matter what their religious leanings can be well educated and useful members of society, and it sounds like you have done a reasonable job of assisting in that.
    I wonder how many other Muslims (or other religions) teach their children other religious points of view as you did? However, did you also teach your children that having no religion is also a valid option?
    I taught my children that individuals have a right to their opinions. My belief requires me to teach the truth as I know it. I embrace the Sufi practice believing that there is not God but ALLAH the creator of the universe including that call our reality. That a difference exists in this thesis we find the anti-thesis as you would put it. My duty to truth is to respond as I see [thesis]. I do not spend much time entertaining the dis-beliefs or lies as they may be called. So many humans have come to this conclusion and taught the generations of men this thesis which rises above individual passions. But to refuse to hear the anti-thesis has never been the way of the prophets. To each man his qibah to which direction he turns ALLAH is God of the East, North, South and West. This basic understanding is Islamic.
    My point is that labels are quiet dangerous and often use to propagate evil by dismissing the human being. There are Muslims of many nations and with many upbringings what we have in common is our belief that all must submit to ALLAH if not now in the end. I raised my children to understand my beliefs in ALLAH by reading the Holy Quran to them and making Salat and following the basic tenants of Islam. The evil is to believe that one can label a human and find cause to kill him and his family is not some Islamic teaching. The numerous injuries caused to humans as punishments for violating ruled of conduct is not isolated to restricted to Muslims. There is not Anti-thesis among us who come to this Islamic principle. There are non-Muslim who meet out punishments for infractions of the law and set their own codes of conduct and dress based upon their customs. Many who find an anti-thesis with the God concept still engage in the slaughter drop 5000 lb bombs on villages thousands of miles away and feel justified. I don’t believe this will be cured by pointing to labels but by looking at our human condition and being honest. Therefore, in all fairness I have begun to introduce my self to the public by engaging in this type of dialogue.

  10. Has anyone thought of this?

    When Muslims are given permission (and funding, as other schools are) to open religious schools they really appreciative of the fact!

    They feel the government/authorities are listening to them and responding to them (as every government should strive to achieve the ambitions of its citizens and those given leave to reside within its borders). It gives them a greater sense of belonging in the country, and dare I say it – pride.

    That appreciation manifests itself amongst the teachers who take extra care to make sure the kids will be fine upstanding citizens, and also they help minimise any possibility of any radical elements which may somehow impinge itself upon the school.

    A Muslim religious school is little different from say a catholic school for girls or something like the Christian Brothers schools for boys. But of course, the Muslim one carries the weighty baggage of ‘terrorism’ with it – unjustifiably so.

    If Muslims are denied assistance in carrying out their life the way they want to, alienation and resentment is likely. That doesn’t benefit anyone other than those who may look out for such disaffected people.

    Lets face it, all of our governments provide financially support for things we dislike. Ask the sick man denied treatment because of its cost when he sees the government spending billions on Olympic stadia, or the businessman who’s cash flow has dried up to the extent his business fails while the government exchequers bail out privately owned companies who gambled billions of dollars to make well off people even more wealthy. And so on…

    I think on balance Muslim schools and other religious schools serve a positive social purpose which fosters cohesion, irrespective of whether thier belief system is correct or not. Muslim schools occasionally hold open days where non-Muslims can have some of their fears and misunderstandings put to rest. It seems very much win-win to me.

    Re: what kink9570 2:36am said on learning of other faiths. The thing is {again from a Muslim perspective}, Islam is a very deep field. It really is a complete code of life and contains many philosophical points as kink9570 (a Sufi) knows. The students are already confident they have the correct faith so it is natural for them to focus strongly on developing knowledge of what they feel is true. Therefore time is limited to examine other faiths and indeed those who express faith in atheism.

    My Schooling in Ireland had absolutely NO time given to other faiths. We were asked when we joined the school if we wanted to be in the protestant religious studies class or the catholic one. I randomly chose the protestant one. A bad choice I learned soon afterwards when I realised the girl I fancied went into the catholic class. Damn! us ‘proddies’ never studied anything about Catholicism let alone other monotheistic faiths, polytheistic or atheistic faiths!! I know people who had R.E. in Muslim countries and they say they spent very little time on learning about other codes of life / faiths etc.

    Remember also, it’s likely the government sets the criteria by which R.E. is conducted. If a Muslim religion class learns nothing of Darwinism (or what I call spun Darwinism) then it’s likely that’s because the government set those parameters in the curriculum.

    Cheers.

  11. Mel Steffir

    Many false prophets have come and left. The Muzlim religion is only one of many with false prophets. This group of people believe that there are virgins lined up outside there palaces waiting to have sex with them. Wouldm’t this be Hell for all those virgins that have to line up to be raped and then marched out the back door. Next.

  12. Mel Steffir

    False Prophets, false teachings make sick minds.

  13. Mel Steffir

    In the Spring of 2006 God sent a message. The message is about the meaning of First is Last and Last is First. The message is this:
    In the morning I go to Heaven. In the afternoon I live my life. In the evening I die, death.
    What does this mean? It means that Birth is Last and Last is Birth. God also gives an example so that you can understand this better. Example: Mike Douglas died on his birthday. (Note: Mike Douglas and Michael Douglas are two different people.)

  14. @ Mel.

    Even if religion is false, if people want to believe it and strive to fulfilling it, shouldn’t they be allowed to? The US constitution guarantees freedom of association, meaning people can form any group they wish. If that’s to practice religion, then that’s their constitutional right. My guess is that Australia has something similar.

    I believe in God and I follow a religion. Even if what I believe is false, I wouldn’t agree that my mind is sick.

    As for your Spring 2006 message, could you elaborate?

  15. @ lwtc247
    You are correct, Australia has something similar, though believe it or not America’s constitution has a slightly stronger separation of church and state!

    So yes it is your right to be religious, but the problem lies when you (or one of the many different religious groups) try to impose your specific beliefs on the rest of us. Additionally there is the problem of the tax exemption for religions.

    As I used to have as a signature block quote on some forums:

    You stay out of my school, and I’ll stay out of your church.

    and you can swap ‘school’ for any other aspect of life: ‘government’, ‘science lab’, ‘bedroom’, etc etc etc.

  16. Mel Steffor

    Correction: To the meaning of First is Last and Last is First. It means that Birth is Last and Birth is First. Sorry for the error. God talks in symbols and opposites at times so it takes time to figure out what he is saying. Some of his messages are clearer than others, plus they have multiple meanings.

    To lwtc247,
    Yes, freedom of religion is guaranteed. Even God allows you to believe as you wish.
    In American we also have the right to point it out to others that they could be following Satan or a false Prophet. A religion where you are forced to believe or else, is more like a curse or hex on you if you don’t. Muzlims must believe or die by the sword or be cast out. Christains must believe in Jesus or you go to Hell. Most Christains will tell you if you don’t believe in Jesus you are damned to spend eternity in Hell. That sounds like a curse if you don’t to me. So you better believe or else. Even at the very end of Revelation in the Bible there is a curse on anyone who takes away or adds to what is written in the Bible. That sounds like a Hex or a Curse to me. Besides that I don’t think God said that, I think the Romans under Constantine inserted the into the Holy Scripture. So this backfires on the Romans cause they inserted something into the Bible that God did not say.

    The reason I say this is the God himself contradicts the Bible. He disagrees with the New Testament in a number of places.

  17. Mel Steffor

    God does not contradict the Old Testament, that I know of. God confirms Daniel, the House of David, and the Son of Joseph. Among a few.

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